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Bill to make KY ‘Second Amendment sanctuary’ advances despite similar law being struck down

The Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky. (Eddie Rodriquez/Dreamstime/TNS)

A Kentucky bill to prevent local law enforcement from enforcing federal firearms bans advanced out of a Senate committee Thursday morning.

The Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee vote came just two days after a federal judge struck down a similar 2021 law in Missouri, saying it was unconstitutional because federal law can’t be nullified by state law.

Also commonly called a “Second Amendment sanctuary” bill and sponsored by Rep. Josh Bray, R-Mount Vernon, House Bill 153 won passage in the House of Representatives in February on a 78-19 vote.

The bill would also cover firearms accessories and ammunition, and would not allow tax dollars to be spent enforcing such federal bans.

Any official violating this law would be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor on the first offense and a Class A on future offenses. Additionally, officials would lose their jobs for violating this law, if passed.

The bill also notes it would not stop local law enforcement from collaborating with federal law enforcement — as long as the task at hand did not pertain to a ban.

Opponents of such laws point out that the United States Constitution has a “supremacy clause,” in which the constitution and federal law take priority over state law in the event the two are in conflict.

In the Missouri case, U.S. District Court Judge Brian Wimes, ruled just that. In his ruling, he wrote that Missouri lawmakers’ “assertion that the Supremacy Clause does not extend to acts of Congress does not make it so,” according to the Missouri Independent, a nonprofit newsroom.

Speaking against the bill, Chuck Eddy, who wore a T-shirt for the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, told lawmakers this bill will get struck down.

“On the federal level, there will be laws passed,” Eddy said. “But because of the Supremacy Clause, if we try to say, ‘No, we’re not going to enforce those,’ then we’re going to spend millions of dollars and in the end we will fail.”

The two committee ‘no’ votes both came from Louisville Democrats — Karen Berg and Denise Harper Angel.

Berg, a physician, drew parallels between gun violence and the opioid epidemic.

“The absolute first line of defense is to get the opioids off the street, out of people’s homes and away from where they can hurt themselves with it,” she asked Bray. “Why, in this case, when we have a tremendous, extraordinarily costly epidemic of gun violence in this state, are you advocating for more guns rather than less? That seems antithetical to what we are doing with the opioid crisis.”

Bray said the two issues shouldn’t be viewed in the same way.

“The opioid crisis stems from addiction,” he said. “The gun violence epidemic stems from a lack of respect for the human life.”

In explaining her no vote, Berg said estimates show each gunshot wound in Kentucky costs the state $500,000 and each murder costs $900,000. A bad weekend, she said, could cost millions of dollars.

“And that’s not solving anything; that is just to fix the problem that was already created,” Berg said. “Opioids have created a tremendous problem in this state, and what we did was limit their access. That is the best way to begin to solve that problem. There is no difference here, sir.”

Sen. Gary Boswell, R-Owensboro, explained his support of the bill.

“We have a president who’s trying to usurp our rights and we’re not going to let that happen,” he said.

Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat and the commonwealth’s former attorney general, said while he’s a “strong supporter” of the Second Amendment, bills like this one don’t hold up to scrutiny.

“I’d just like us to spend our time on things that we know are constitutional, and that can improve our lives, like economic development, expansion of health care,” he said. “That one will be challenged by someone in court, and each and every time it’s struck down.”


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